Pilot Stories

An essential and core component of the HIMs Program is “Peer Support” from those that have not only been in a similar situation but have since made the difficult dicision to ask for and get assistance to overcome the challenges of addictive behaviours and are either currently participating in recovery programs or have successfully completed programs and are commited to sharing their experiences and extending a supportive hand to others.

Andrew O'Meally

Management Committee Member

Andrew grew up in Maroubra, Sydney. He spent a number of years in General Aviation flying in remote areas including Papua New Guinea where he started a charter business, Tropic Air, in partnership with the local publican. His last landing there was into the jungle after the engine of his single engine aircraft failed.

He then flew for National Jet Systems flying 146s and then onto Qantas Mainline where he has been for the last 23 years. Of those 23 years, he has spent the last 18 in recovery. Free from alcohol or other drugs. Andrew has been an Air Safety Investigator with Qantas and has flown the B737, B767 and B747 and is currently a First Officer on the A380. He has a Masters’ Degree in Science and Technology (Aviation).

Andrew is the current president of the HIMS Australia and has been providing a peer monitoring and supportive role for a number of pilots in recovery within the Australian Aviation Industry. He is also a member of the Qantas group’s PAN group (Pilot Assistance Network). His current interests include spending time with his family, studying for his psychology degree and keeping fit.

Hylton Ward

Management Committee Member

Hylton is the Owner, CEO and Chief Pilot of Elite Aviation Services Pty Ltd operating as “Outback From Above” in Outback Queensland. He has over 34yrs flying experience in helicopters and fixed wing aircraft largely in remote areas, cattle stations and islands of Queensland, Torres Strait and Northern Territory. Based in Winton, Hylton is deeply entrenched in the community serving as President of both the Winton Business & Tourism Association and the Outback Festival.

Hylton has been involved with HIMS Australia since its inception and now continues this commitment to the program as Secretary.

Mike Atherton

Management Committee Member

Mike is a private psychiatrist working at the Sydney Clinic at Bronte. He has been a psychiatrist for over 10 years as a Member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in the UK, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists in Australia, and a Fellow of the Australasian Chapter of Addiction Medicine.

He also has an Advanced Certificate of Training in Addiction Psychiatry and was a founding member of the HIMS Australia Advisory Group. Mike is a US HIMS (FAA) certified Addiction Psychiatrist and a NSW Medical Council Appointed Psychiatrist and Panel member for the NSW physicians Health Program. He has expertise in aviation and safety sensitive return to work programs and regularly provide expert witness opinions.

Russell Brown

Management Committee Member

Russell completed medicine at Sydney University graduating in 1999. Following residency, he worked in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) for 6 years, with postings in Canberra, Townsville and Brisbane. This included overseas missions with the military, the United Nations, and Humanitarian work, especially throughout South East Asia.

Russell then moved into private general practice in Melbourne, and since 2010 he has been working in Sydney as one of the senior medical officers with the Qantas Group. His special areas of interest include aviation medicine, travel health, addiction medicine, and preventative health.

Craig Jones

Management Committee Member

Craig grew up in Kenya and Tasmania. After 5 years in General Aviation flying in Tasmania and Tanzania, he joined Qantas in 1997 and has flown the B767, B747-400 and is currently a Captain on the B737.

Craig reached out to HIMS Australia in 2019 and, with its support, is now living a healthy lifestyle free from alcohol.

He believes in the good work the organisation can do and wants to help others, particularly in the Aviation industry, to break out of the vicious cycle of addiction and to live their best lives.

David Holt

President HIMS Australia

David is currently a B787 Captain with Qantas, working for the airline for 25 years. After a number of stints on the pilot management committee (AIPA) he has transitioned to a pilot advocate role for pilots with a substance use disorder.

Dave has been intimately involved with the development of a HIMS programme in Australia with a small group of like minded colleagues. Whilst he strongly believes that HIMS is a pilot for pilots programme, he also emphasises the importance of liaising with all stakeholders in industry (CASA, AVMED, Union & Company) to achieve an Australian culturally specific HIMS programme.

As a contact point for the HIMS Australia Advisory Group, he has had had a varied discourse with aviators and their families over several years. There is no doubt in Dave’s mind that collectively the stakeholders mentioned above can work together to improve the outcomes for people and our industry whilst recognising the safety sensitive nature of pilot roles.

Tom McRobert

Management Committee Member

Tom commenced training as an Air Traffic Controller with Airservices Australia in 2006. During his career, he has obtained a number of qualifications in this field including Barossa and Bass Enroute Control Groups, Melbourne and Canberra Approach in the Melbourne Terminal Control Unit. He is a check and training controller for both of these approach units.

He has been a member of The Civil Air Operations Officers’ Association of Australia (Civil Air) since December 2007. In 2016, Tom was elected president of this association.

Tom is passionate about aviation, holding a commercial pilot’s licence and is a qualified flying instructor.

Tony Merritt

Management Committee Member

Tony has been a clinical psychologist for over twenty years. He specialises aviation psychology, workplace wellbeing and stress, clinical health psychology, drug and alcohol problems, and personality disorders. Tony runs several large clinical psychology practices and several multidisciplinary pain management centres, and is a lecturer in the masters of clinical psychology programmes at several universities. Tony is also currently a member of the executive team of the APS College of Clinical Psychologists and the HIMS management committee, and has previously been a board member of several large organisations.

Tony enjoys working with aviation professionals and has provided treatment for a range of issues from simulator anxiety to severe addiction. He also works with a range of aviation companies and professionals to improve mental health across the industry. This has included setting up peer support programmes, providing advice on workplace mental health strategies, providing workplace mental health training, designing and implementing wellbeing programmes, implementing pre-employment screening, and providing fitness for work assessments.

Todd Mickleson

Management Committee Member

Todd is a B737 Captain with Qantas Airways based in Brisbane. He is a member of the HAAG Management Committee, the HIMS representative for the Australian and International Pilots’ Association (AIPA) and a Peer Support Volunteer with the Qantas Pilot Assistance Network (PAN).

Todd has a Bachelor’s Degree in Aviation, majoring in Human Factors (HF) and Safety Management, and has been involved in the development of SMS and HF programs for 25 years. Todd has a keen interest in pilot mental health and wellbeing and peer support. He has been involved in the development of a HIMS policy for the Qantas Group, and has completed both the Basic and Advanced HIMS training in the USA.

Laurie Shaw

Management Committee Member

Laurie Shaw is an Airbus Captain with Cathay Pacific Airways based in Brisbane. He is the Australian Aircrew Officers Association (AAOA) HIMS Chairman, Hong Kong Airline Pilots Association (HKALPA) Board Member, Pilot Union Representative with the Cathay Pacific Airways HIMS Steering Group Committee.

He is part of a team working with the other professional pilot associations (locally and worldwide), Aviation Medicine, Addiction Medicine Specialists and CASA to establish a transparent process for medical recertification for pilots afflicted with substance use disorders. Laurie is an active Peer Monitor for pilots in recovery, assisting with their recertification process. He is the founding president of the organisation.

Sara Souter

Management Committee Member

Dr Sara Souter is an Occupational and Aviation Medicine Specialist, Kiwi born and bred but now living in the colder part of Australia (Snowy Mountains). Sara is currently Group Medical Officer at Virgin Australia, but previously has held roles as Senior Medical Officer at Air New Zealand, and Senior Medical Officer at CASA.

She has lived in the hotter parts of Australia (Broken Hill) on two occasions, early on as a doctor with the Royal Flying Doctor Service. It was there she began working hand in hand with pilots and so began a career in and love of aviation medicine. She has been a CAA/CASA Designated Aviation Medical Examiner (DAME) for over 15 years.

Sara has a real interest and enthusiasm for treatment of mental health conditions in the aviation environment, including substance disorders, and is lucky enough to have had a professional live-in learning experience at Betty Ford Clinic in the US in the past. Sara is always interested in learning how we can do things better in managing health in the airline environment.

Joseph Wheeler

Management Committee Member

Joseph Wheeler is a lawyer who advances the rights and conditions of professional pilots in Australia and globally. Joseph defends pilots through Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) medical and enforcement matters, and his past role as a Vice Chair of the Legal Committee of the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA) has seen him appointed to International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Task Forces. Joseph advises the Australian Federation of Air Pilots and its members or aeromedical issues and decisions of CASA’s and defends its members from CASA actions.

Joseph is the Aviation Spokesperson for the Australian Lawyers Alliance and a regular commentator on aero-legal and aero-political affairs in the media. Joseph has worked as a regulator for the Australian Government and was responsible for airport economic regulation policy oversight, and planning and development, as an Assistant Director in the Airports Branch, Canberra, from 2011 – 2013.

He is an elected Member of the Royal Aeronautical Society and was the first lawyer globally awarded scholarship funds by the RAeS for postgraduate study in aviation law. Joseph runs his own specialist aviation legal practice (IALPG) based in Brisbane but servicing clients worldwide, and it is one of few solely aviation and space law practicing for and on behalf of pilots, remote pilots and passengers.

Philip Remilton

Management Committee Member

Philip has been a career general aviation (GA) pilot since 2002 working through the central corridor between Adelaide and Darwin.

Philip has been involved in the HIMS Australia Advisory Group (HAAG) management committee since being elected as General Aviation representative in 2018, prior to that was attending HAAG events since inception of the annual seminar.

The Australian Federation of Air Pilots (AFAP) has been running a welfare program for a number of years and Philip has been a Peer Support Representative since program inception. The biggest issue facing pilots that could be involved in the HIMS program Philip believes come from the GA sector as they are working for the small end of the industry